A woman on a work permit was sentenced to 10 weeks in prison and probably won’t be allowed back in Cayman because of her conviction for theft, Magistrate Valdis Foldats said last week.
He spoke about the consequences of the offense committed by Andrea Palmer, whose sentencing prompted a review of factors to be considered when an employee steals from an employer.
Palmer was charged with stealing items with a total value of $4,695 from Tips N Toes between January 2009 and September 2012. First brought to court in January this year, she pleaded not guilty in May. However, in November she admitted thefts to a total value of $2,965, and the Crown accepted that plea.
Crown Counsel Michael Snape submitted an 8-by-10-inch photograph of items recovered from Palmer’s apartment. They included some 90 bottles of nail polish, 75 tubs of glitter, various creams, jewels and manicure implements, plus an electric drill valued at $581.
Defense attorney John Furniss accepted that the thefts were a breach of trust, and Mr. Snape agreed that the thefts were not as serious as those committed by someone responsible for financial management.
A statement from management indicated that over a period of time, it was noticed that beauty products shad gone missing. In September 2012, the management got everyone together in a circle and discussed the situation. The business employed 16 people.
Mr. Snape said suspicions were aroused when Palmer was described as going red, becoming teary and very quiet. When she was asked if she had taken anything, she hesitated and then said maybe a couple of polishes. Her car was searched and nothing was found, but numerous items were recovered from her apartment.
Palmer was not able to account for how they got there. Asked which of the items were hers personally, she replied, “How would I know?” She gave no indication in her interview as to why she took them.
Mr. Snape said the thefts did not amount to a lot in absolute terms, but there were clearly lots of separate transactions.
The aggravating features he cited were the length of time over which the thefts occurred, the number of times the thefts occurred and the fact that Palmer was “turning up for work, looking her employers in the face and stealing from them.”
Mitigating features were her guilty plea and the fact that she made no attempt to blame other employees.
Mr. Furniss said Palmer had been working for her employer approximately five years and had come to Cayman to earn money to support her family. He acknowledged the sentencing guidelines and agreed that the fact that she has children is not an exceptional circumstance.
He said Palmer had earned between $275 and $300 per week. “She obviously wasn’t running any serious business on the side because it was all there,” Mr. Furniss submitted, referring to the items shown in the exhibited photograph.
The magistrate equated the theft to roughly 10 weeks’ salary and said that was significant.
He thanked Palmer for her guilty plea, and said that because she took responsibility for her actions, he could give her a discount in sentence. But he made it clear that there had to be a sentence of imprisonment for theft from an employer.
The effect on Palmer herself included loss of reputation and good character. “You are a thief; you probably won’t be allowed back in the Cayman Islands,” he told the defendant. “You came here for a good reason… You made a bad decision. What you faced is faced by most expats who came here looking for a better life or a way to support family back home.”
He agreed there were no special reasons why a term of immediate imprisonment should not be imposed. An appropriate sentence would have been 15 weeks, he said, but because of the guilty plea, he was imposing 10 weeks.